Beginner’s Guide to Moving to KAUST – Part 3

By | August 21, 2011

In the last few weeks, several people have reached out to me after reading my blog to say that they are moving to KAUST soon and that my blog posts have been helpful in their own planning. So, I thought I’d put together a few thoughts on some of my lessons learned from moving here.

This is the last of a three part series: Part 1 covering the time before the move, Part 2 covering moving day, Part 3 covering the first few weeks at KAUST.

I’d love your input on my guide. What have I missed? What did I get wrong? Feel free to add your ideas in the comments below.

Unpacking. Image from ianivarieanna on Flickr

After you arrive at KAUST

Things and Stuff

When you first arrive at Kaust, you’ll probably only have a few suitcases of stuff until your air/sea shipment arrives. Our air shipment arrived 4 weeks to the day from the day they picked our stuff up in England. We’ve been here for 6 weeks now and there is no word on when we will receive our sea freight. It will come inshallah.

Here are a few places to get things in your first few weeks here:

On the compound:

  • Big Tamimi (website only available on compound) is the main supermarket here at KAUST. This store is easy to get to, does free delivery of non-perishable items, and has loads of items that will help you settle into your first few days and weeks in the Kingdom. Besides groceries, this is a great place to buy simple kitchen and bathroom wares, laundry supplies, cleaning supplies like mops and brooms, electrical appliances, and adaptors (You’ll need european plugs). We did a big shop here in our first 24 hours which was an excellent way to get all of our immediate needs met.
  • The gift shop in the souk area of KAUST has lots of decorative items for your home including rugs, lighting, mirrors, and more. It’s all very middle-eastern in style and of high quality.
  • The book store in the souk area has notebooks and pens for your first day in class or at work
  • Banaweer bike shop also in the souk area has bikes for sale. I really recommend bike as the best way to get around here at KAUST! They also sell scooters and quadbikes there as well, I believe.

Off the compound

Visit the Saco World Website

  • Saco World – we always see other westerners in this store. It has loads of household items ranging from furniture to light bulbs. There is stuff for your kitchen, office, bedroom, bathroom, garden, etc to make it nice and livable. Pool floats, plastic storage bins, hoses, blenders, etc… you name it!
  • Ikea – This store has everything you could need to settle in. It’s pretty cheap in terms of cost and quality, but it’s a great start at least.

Getting Things Done

Things work a bit differently in Saudi than in other places I’ve lived. Expect that you will need to have 4 phone calls and 2 trips to an office before you get clarity sometimes. The best way to deal with this is simply to relax and take it all in stride. Getting mad definitely does not help the situation!

Here are a few of the services I needed in my first few days and weeks:

Building 16

  • Emergency contact – Okay, I didn’t need this, but it’s good to have on hand! On a campus phone dial 911 in an emergency. For any other 0n-campus emergency dial 02 808 09 11. In the event that you are off campus and have an emergency (detained? car accident?) dial 05 44 70 1111 for help from KAUST.
  • HR – once you get to KAUST and get your new home, you will probably be directed to go to HR in building 16 on campus. If your house is not acceptable or there are any problems upon your arrival, contact your HR representative for assistance.
  • Taxi – We had the luxury of having a car to borrow during our first week here. You may want to hire a taxi for short journeys in your first few days. Here is more info about Taxis (website only accessible on compound). Or call Saudi Oger at 808 5017 or Hanco at 808 5647
  • Bus – There is also a bus to get around. I have been borrowing a bike so haven’t yet used the bus, but many people do. Here is more info about buses (website only accessible on compound).
  • Opening a bank account – The people at Samba bank are very helpful! You must wait until you have your Iqama (longer-term employment visa) to open an account at Samba. Once you have this, go to the bank and they will set you up with an account. Note: a non-Kaust-employed spouse cannot have access to the account until s/he has an Iqama as well. Additionally, the Samba bank cards are not set up for online shopping, so I recommend that you keep an account open in your home country as well!
  • Phones – you will need to contact IT to get your home phone set up. Here is the process (website only available on compound).
  • Gardening– Your front garden will be tended by KAUST. Your back garden is your responsibility. Call
    808 5480 if you want to hire someone to do this for you.
  • Cleaning – If you want a cleaning crew to come to your house when you first arrive or on a regular basis call 959 on your home phone to request a crew.
  • Dry Cleaning and Ironing can be done at the big Tamimi supermarket (more info about Tamimi above).
  • Medical – When you arrive you will be able to sign up for health insurance. There are excellent medical and dental facilities on campus including a pharmacy. When it’s time for your first appointment, go a few minutes early and be sure to bring the bupa certificate which you can print out from your bupa login area on the website (ask HR for your login), your passport and/or Iqama, and your KAUST ID. You can call the health center to book an appointment or get more info at 808 4111.
  • Mailbox – Setting up a mailbox at Fedex literally took us 4 trips to the Fedex office. You need to fill out a form (which you get at the fedex office) and the person who works at KAUST needs to be present with their KAUST ID.
I’m sure there are other services that are useful in the first few weeks too, and if you’re struggling I’ll be happy to help where I can. Please just leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to help you find a solution.
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  • Tutu

    Hi Claire, great job for making this blog.
    I am about to accept a postdoc in KAUST and would like to know:

    1. Is there any issue for my girlfriend to accompany me here ? Is it fine if we are not married for instance.
    2. Can she participate and access to all facilities and resources as a normal employee there.
    3. Does she benefit from my free health insurance there ?

    Thanks.

  • Hi Tutu –

    This is something to discuss with your relocation advisor. As far as I know, non-
    family members are not permitted to accompany you or even get visit visa, per saudi law.

    Fingers crossed for you.
    -C

  • Tual Monfort

    Hi Claire, Thanks for this quick answer.